6 Different Methods for Grilling the Perfect Sausage
Sausages are made for your BBQ: the smoky heat from the grill will enhance the flavour of any sausage and bring out its natural juices. In some respects, sausage is one of the easier meats to grill as you don’t need to worry about marinades or precise cooking times. However, it’s easy for this simple dish to go very wrong.
Since sausages are high in fat, it’s not uncommon for fat drippings to cause grill flare ups. What’s more: the thickness and density of most sausages makes it easy for grillers to burn the sausage casing even while the center is still raw. As a result, many people end up cooking their sausages for far too long, leaving them dry and flavorless.
By mastering the top methods for grilling sausages, you can avoid these common cooking mishaps and ensure your dish comes out perfect every time.
Method 1: Hit the Smoker
Any style of sausage is delicious, but using a smoker will give your dish a flavour boost that you won’t find anywhere else.
For scrumptiously smoked sausages, start by soaking your wood chips in water for 30 minutes – this way, the chips won’t burn as quickly in your smoker. If you want mild-flavored sausages, oak, apple, cherry, or maple pellets will do the trick. For a richer, more-robust flavor, opt for pecan, mesquite, hickory, or walnut chips.
Next, heat your smoker to 200 °F (93 °C). If you’ve got a charcoal smoker, start your coals in a chimney and let them heat for 10-15 minutes. When your charcoal is ready – i.e. when the top coals have started to turn grey with ash – pour the charcoal into the bottom of your smoker and use a thermometer to check the temperature.
Once your smoker is ready to go, place your sausages on a rack a few centimeters (1 inch) apart from one another. After you’ve slid the rack into your smoker, quickly close the door and don’t open it for 2 hours. At that point, your sausages will likely be done but you should always use a thermometer to check that their internal temperature has reached 165 °F (74 °C). (Photo: Pavlofox)
Method 2: Poach and Grill
By poaching your sausages before grilling, you can ensure that your end-product will be juicy, fully-cooked, and not burnt – just as sausages should be. It’s also a surefire way to prevent the casings from hardening.
Start by warming a large pot of water – or a ratio of half water and half beer – over medium heat. The key is to never let the water boil. Keep it below a simmer. If your water is too hot, you risk the sausage case rupturing, which would result in a dry, bland meal.
Once the water is warm (but not too warm!) add the sausages to the pot and cook for about 8 minutes. Once the sausages have reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees, transfer them to the grill, and keep them there until they are brown, slightly charred, and induce a mouth-watering effect.
While this method gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your meal will be perfectly cooked, keep in mind that you will sacrifice some of that smoky flavour by using the stove. Choose your sausage grilling methods wisely. (Photo: Good Housekeeping)
Method 3: Poach and Grill… at the same time!
Poaching and grilling your sausages at the same time is like the ‘best of both worlds’ BBQ method: you get the cooking consistency of poaching, while retaining that glorious BBQ flavour.
This method involves placing sausages in aluminum pans filled with liquid condiments like sauerkraut, beer, and mustard on the grill. This way, your sausages will be packed with flavour from both the grill and the added ingredients.
Just like the previous method, remove your sausages from the pan once their internal temperature has reached 160 degrees and place them on the grill to get a nice finishing char. (Photo: Serious Eats)
Method 4: Indirect Grilling
Indirect grilling is perhaps the most popular way of ensuring your sausages cook perfectly while developing the oh-so-coveted smoky sausage flavour.
Start by grilling your sausages for a few minutes over high heat. Once they are nicely browned, turn your grill down to medium and move your sausages as far from the heat source as possible. Keep them there for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until they reach the magic internal temperature.
With this method, you can avoid fires, flareups, and shrinkage. Instead, you can enjoy a deliciously juicy bratwurst with crisp casing. (Photo: KRiemer)
5: The Butterfly
If you prefer lean sausages, if you need your food in a pinch, or if you have a recipe that calls for sliced sausage, the butterfly method is the way to go.
Simply cut your sausages lengthwise – about 80 percent of the way through – and lay them flat on the grill.
Since you’re laying your sausages skin-side up, the casing won’t dry out and the sausage will cook quickly. However, this method allows for some precious juices to drip out which will result in dry meat.
But sometimes this is the kind of sausage you need. If you’re cooking a dish that doesn’t have sausage as its main ingredient – like jambalaya or pasta sauce – this method will prevent your meal from being too oily while adding some extra smokiness. If you’re looking for moist meat, however, you’d be wise to opt for one of the other methods listed here. (Photo: Fit Men Cook)
Method 6: Low’n’Slow Direct Grilling
Placing sausages right on the grill is often the method that leads to the most BBQ disasters – but with proper technique, you can still cook sausages the old-fashioned way and get great results.
The reason why many people experience issues with direct grilling is that they use high heat and burn the sausage skin before the interior is properly cooked. By burning the sausage – and rupturing the casing, as a result – you also risk juices dripping into the grill and causing flare ups, which only makes matters worse.
To avoid these problems, simply decrease your grill temperature. By keeping the fire low, you allow the sausage to cook gently and slowly.
Although the chance of failure is lessoned with this approach to direct grilling, you should still stand by in case of flareups. Also, for safe measure, have a safe zone to move the sausages to in case of emergency. You could also add a few needle pricks to your sausage in order for the pressure to escape. Yes, some juices will escape this way, but you won’t lose as much juice as if the pressure built up and the casing split.
Whether you cook your sausages the old-fashioned way, or get fancy with poaching liquids, sausages are a crowd-pleasing dish that can bring the summertime to any season. (Photo: Food & Wine)
Article by Taylor Mitchell
- Taylor Mitchell